Unexpected Blessings

Luke 5:1-11
Stewardship of Time & Talent
Elizabeth M. Deibert

I took on the preschool class this school year because I believed our little ones at Peace needed more than an extra hour of free play in the nursery. Joy Jensen and I took it on because nobody else would. But you know what, it has been an unexpected blessing, a privilege. I love spending time with Fields Thomas and Andrew Adams, our three year olds. It is fun preparing for their class, singing with them, being silly with them, and seeing the Bible stories through their eyes. Yesterday eight of us - four youth, four adults went to Mission Beth-El to pack food, as eleven of you adults did on Thursday. I did not really want to get up earlier this morning. Some other people in my house were not happy about getting up either. I usually spend Saturday mornings polishing my sermon. But what a blessing to pack those bags, knowing that people would be blessed. At the end of our two hours, Javier counted the bags that Peace people had packed this week – 650!

Unexpected blessings come when we take on roles, to which we could easily and justifiable say “no” but which call us into a more meaningful relationship with Christ through the Church. When we say “yes” to Jesus calling, as the tired, overworked and under-successful fishermen did, our emptiness, exhaustion, and despair are transformed into fullness, gratitude, and joy.

Hear the word of the Lord:NRS Luke 5:1 Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." 5 Simon answered, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets." 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" 9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people." 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

The fishermen were tired. They had worked hard all night long. They were putting things away and this teacher/preacher/healer guy wants them to take the boats out again. What a pain, but they did not resist. They went along with Jesus’ request. We can only assume that it was a hassle. Kind of like when you get home from work and have to rush to eat and get to a church meeting. It would be easier to stay home, but when you go, relationships are forged, prayers made, commitments kept, and you go home tired but renewed. At least that’s how it should be – when you are responding to a true call. This image of fishermen with their nets captivated me because if you squint your eyes, it also looks a little bit like our sound system set up. Untangling nets is kind of like untangling cords. It is work to come at 8:30 and get this place ready, and more work to tear it down at 10:40 but there’s joy in being together and doing what God has called us to do.

Because the fishermen agreed to take the boats out again, they were able to hear better than anyone else, this amazing teacher, whom they did not know was also God with us, Immanuel, but they were drawn to him.. As he finished teaching, he said, “Put your nets down in the deep water.” Now having obeyed in the first step, the Simon is a little exasperated now. Lord, we’ve already fished all night. Isn’t that enough? Note that even in his frustration Simon still says, “Well, if you say so, okay.” He really doesn’t believe anything will happen, but he’s still willing. Simon Peter doesn’t know that Jesus has an unexpected blessing.

We are like the fishermen – tired, busy, frustrated with emptiness nets or bank accounts. And Jesus says, “Let me into your boat for some teaching and fishing. We can say, “Lord, I’m too tired. It’s been a long week. I don’t have time to spend with you. We can legitimately say, “I’ve fished enough. Lord, I’m already on one ministry team in the church. I invited several friends to come to church, but they didn’t come. I visited a ministry team, but it wasn’t the right one for me. I worked in the nursery and taught Sunday school when my kids were small. My nets are empty. I have no extra time or money. Too busy, too tired. And the disciples had fished all night and their nets were empty. But they had not fished with Jesus in the boat.

When Peter, who had doubted the possibility of any fish, sees the unexpected blessing, he feel sinful for having complained about the nets, for having thought that empty nets were empty nets – with or without Jesus. He is overcome with gratitude and embarrassment for not believing that empty nets could be full nets. He’s overwhelmed with Jesus’ ability to find fish. Do you remember when this auditorium turned into a sanctuary had twice as many empty seats as full ones?
And look at the unexpected blessing.

The amazing thing to me is that when these fishermen went to shore after a successful night, they were not trying to convince Jesus to fish with them again. After all, this was a lucrative moment on the sea. No, they were dropping these their nets and following him wherever he was going. They realized that the real blessing was not catching the fish but catching a glimpse of the glory of God and devoting their lives to Christ’s service.

In his book The Cost of Discipleship, Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer described the difference between “cheap grace” and “costly grace.” Cheap grace, he said, is grace without a commitment and response from the believer. It is grace without servanthood. Costly grace, said Bonhoeffer, moves us to respond to the call of Jesus.

Danish theologian and philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said the typical Christian is caught up in “admiring Christ instead of following Christ.”

The question before us is whether we want to simply be Christ admirers or whether we are bold enough to be Christ followers. No doubt, if we are courageous, we will discover unexpected blessings when we let Jesus into our boats, when we listen to him, and when we follow him.

Denny and Barbara Noto have been an unexpected blessing to Peace Presbyterian, and I think Peace has been an unexpected blessing to them, as they have committed their time and talent to Christ’s service here at Peace.